Sutton stonewalls Christchurch cost requests

Roger Sutton: Staying quiet for now

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton has finally declined NBR ONLINE requests for costings of the central city rebuild.

NBR asked Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee on August 13 for documentation about the cost of civic amenities and the purchase of land for central Christchurch’s rebuild.

Mr Brownlee passed the request to Mr Sutton.

After several stalling letters the authority has now written another refusing the information while apologising for the delay.

NBR made the request because of the overriding public interest of Christchurch ratepayers who will be required to pay for the amenities that will be decreed by the authority, an unelected offshoot of Mr Brownlee’s ministry.

In keeping with responses from other government ministries to Official Information Act requests recently, Mr Sutton cites public interest, commercial confidentiality and privacy issues as reasons for refusing to disclose.

The letter from Mr Sutton also says the information will soon be publicly available.

Under the provisions of the OIA, on August 13 NBR requested copies of briefing papers, Cabinet minutes, reports and correspondence between CERA, Central City Development Unit, Treasury and the Earthquake Recovery ministry or any other relevant parties including landowners concerning:

  • Anticipated costs of securing central Christchurch land for the purpose of the CCDU rebuilding blueprint.
  • Anticipated or indicative costs of selling such land to private developers.
  • Anticipated or indicative leasing costs per square metre of completed property developments.
  • Anticipated time of completing the land purchases.
  • Anticipated costs of each major civic project: convention centre, rugby stadium, metro,  sport, in particular.
  • Anticipated time of completing the civic projects.
  • The division of where property acquisition costs will fall – on the government versus the city council.

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4 Comments & Questions

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Any numbers CERA might have, like the possible cost of projects, will just be an educated finger in the air done for planning purposes, and which won't have factored in all possible permutations of delivering the projects.

I can understand why the reporter would be interested in them, but given that these projects might well be funded any number of ways, by any number of commercial parties, and CERA's choice of the ways and the parties will be a matter of offers, bids and negotiation, wouldn't they be soft in the head to release these draft numbers to a journalist?

They'd simply be publicly setting the parameters of those commercial negotiations before discussions have begun. And who knows, the numbers they've done in their planning may be much higher, or lower, than those presented by commercial investors or developers with viable plans.

For me, the only public interest case that can be made for releasing these numbers is a prurient one which has the potential to cost taxpayers lots of money.

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Will NBR be appealing Sutton's decision and continue to pursue access to the information?

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The numbers will be eye-watering and would cause uproar.

Indications from city valuers are that rentals for new office space will need be at least $500sq m, hence to date not too many takers. Bob Jones is going to be proven right – very little rebuild.

Another issue which needs exploring is what's happened to the CCC rating base. The residential red-zone houses are all but gone, as has much of the CBD. The CCC must have a huge hole here as a result and nobody is talking about it!

A job for NBR to follow up on.

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Residential red-zoned houses are not all gone by any means.
Many people are still residing in their homes, as are we, and waiting for EQC and insurance settlements.
Brooklands, Dallington, Avonside, Kaiapoi - I personally know people in these areas who are still waiting for resolution, regardless of what Cera and news reports publish.
We are all still paying full council rates on properties deemed to be so badly damaged that we must vacate.
Look wider than what you receive via self-promoting publicity publications.

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